Characters of Glass Hell


Found a write-up about one of my worst-ever jobs from back in my college days. Putting a few excerpts here. Nearly triggers light PTSD episodes thinking about it (exaggeration, yes).

One day in 1995, I was scheduled for a job interview at a glass company. It was far from ideal, and I immediately got a bad feeling when I missed a turn and passed the barely marked street I should have turned onto. Once I got to the correct street, I drove down, a growing sense of ominous dread coming over me, but despite the alarm bells going off in my head, I kept going. I approached an unmarked warehouse and rundown office space, which housed what would eventually be the worst job I ever had. The surroundings, the location, the dingy carpets, wood paneling everywhere – everything screamed “shady”. I knew none of this felt right, but I really needed the job.

Time makes the memories soften and the impact fade. (Note: This is especially true reviewing this in present-day, 2014.)

I was hired as a part-time, evening customer service person who would handle phone calls from the entire US. We were not allowed to tell callers where we were located. They dialed their local numbers, which were forwarded to our office regardless of where the calls came from. We had to find deceptive, sneaky ways to figure out what market these people were calling from to be able to do anything – to determine whether the service they wanted was available, to give them a price quote, to forward their information on to the appropriate store, etc. etc. I eventually just started asking for callers’ zip codes, which often made them suspicious (as if I could track them down just with a zip code), but I would try to reassure, “It is just to get an accurate quote for tax purposes” or something similar.

The fact that I had to, from minute one, lie to customers – all while the phones were going nuts (we were expected to keep 10+ customers on the line at once) – maybe that should have discouraged me.

I stuck with this for 1.5 years until I was unceremoniously “laid off due to budget cuts” – not at all the truth since they were still hiring people actively when I was let go. I know why it happened, but I guess they wanted to be diplomatic.

I won’t even go into it right now. The thing that really gets me and still, if possible, haunts me is the characters I worked with. I made a few friends (work friends, anyway – we were friendly at work and sometimes socialized outside of work) but mostly I look back and think, “Where did these people come from?” The sort of people who got married on the front porch of their mobile home in a trailer park, but would come to work and boast, “I am super high maintenance and I used to work at Nordy’s” (meaning Nordstrom department store). If she were so great, how did she end up at this hellhole as a job, getting married in her trailer? The other women were a collection of people who went out every night, coming to work in the morning still drunk from the night before. I overheard one of them talking on the phone, telling someone she planned to get her son back from the state (which had deemed her an unfit mother) once she “gets her act together and joins the Air Force”). ?! A conceited and condescending aspiring opera singer kept telling all of us that we cannot understand real love because we had never been in love like she had – she had found her soulmate, by god. Skepticism be damned. I am not sure how she met the guy from Florida that she endlessly talked about as being her soulmate. But she ended up finding out he was a registered sex offender, and then suddenly she did not talk at all except to occasionally say that she was always too good for him and so above him intellectually.

It was sort of a sad mix, a sociological cesspool – a lot of misogyny (the company owner and manager were sexist men), a lot of backbiting and backstabbing, obviously a lot of lying to customers – and then the management lied to us. At some point, the management decided that “all of you girls” need a manager. They hired a former military guy named Art. Art was told he was our manager, but we were not told that Art was our manager. Art would become furious when we refused to “obey” him, but when we confronted the manager above him as to whether or not Art had really been hired to manage us, he said no.

Eventually I insisted that we have a meeting with us, Art and the manager, at which time he was forced to admit that Art had been hired to manage us. We agreed to give Art a chance. Art had some kind of problems that required a lot of medication, at least one of which affected his short-term memory – so he would do something several times in short succession, not realizing he had already done it. This included phoning glass installers all over the US in the middle of the night for emergency calls, defying specific protocols that stated he should only phone once within a 15-minute period. He would call over and over until he got an answer, which infuriated glass installers nationwide. All of them wanted to kill him. I documented over a month’s worth of Art’s madness and presented a six-page letter to the management about his ineffective management. Naturally this was the beginning of the end for me. Even though they fired Art, they definitely did not want to keep me around. Troublemaker!

The final straw was the result of some weird daytime (the characters I mentioned earlier) versus evening employee (the evening people were like me – mostly students or doing this as a second job or something) rivalry. The daytime people handled insurance claims and got commission for the work they sold – evening people could not get commission even if we handled those jobs – it would just be assigned to someone on the daytime shift. One day I came to work and was told that evening people, despite the fact that we overlapped with day shift people, should under no circumstances handle calls that are daytime-specific/commission markets, and that we should always transfer those calls to one of the daytime people because we were “unqualified” to handle them. Haha. This was fine until evening, when there were three evening people on shift, and one daytime person, and I answered the phone and it was a daytime market customer. I told the daytimer I was going to transfer the call to her, she laughed and said I should just take it. I stood my ground and said, “I am not qualified to take it, as we have been told all day.” She got extremely angry, took the call, which turned out to be an order for which she got commission, not just a quote. No matter. She was the backstabbing troublemaker type, so two days later, I was “laid off”.

It was probably the best thing to happen to me at the time, but it definitely did not feel like it at the time. A lot of the things I had been planning to do had fallen apart, and losing a shit job definitely did not help cushion the blow of the other things that plagued me.

But I look at these experiences, so far in the future, and I laugh. They are a grind to get through, and as cliche as it is, they build character – and now it’s like reading a comic book or something – a comic book about loser assholes and total ineptitude.

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